What’s that you say? Aligoté.
Chateau des Charmes Aligoté 2014
Niagara on the Lake, Ontario
$12.95 until May 22 ($13.95 after)
I feel like this blog has a theme: “the Other”. The other sparkling, the other Cabernet, the other rosé. I totally never meant to go down this road of otherness, but sometimes that’s where you find the best values.
So today, I present another other: Burgundy’s other white grape, but grown, vinified, and bottled in Ontario.
There’s a lot to unpack in there, so let’s get started. Most people, when they think of white Burgundy, think of Chardonnay. Because of course they do: white Burgundy is almost exclusively made from Chardonnay. From Chablis to the Mercury, Burgundy is home to some of the most exquisite and expensive expressions of Chardonnay.
But then there’s this little known white grape called Aligoté. Burgundian winemakers use it to make drinkin’ wines. Wines to enjoy while they’re waiting for their Chardonnay to age to perfection; wines that they can actually afford to drink at home. It’s sometimes used to bolster the acidity in Chardonnay but usually it’s meant to be drunk young when it’s freshest, and to occasionally be mixed with a touch of cassis as a kir cocktail. But that’s it, no biggie.
Sure, it’s grown in a few other places around the world, but it hasn’t made a big splash globally. That's why it's so interesting that Chateau des Charmes decided to plant Aligoté. But plant it they did, and every vintage they turn out a lovely wine that’s super food friendly but also really easy to drink while standing in a hot room full of family and friends. (I served this recently at my brother’s engagement party and it was a huge hit. Probably because it’s a really well made wine, but also because it’s versatile and charming.)
I tried the wine on a couple of different occasions and really noticed that temperature made a difference to the aromatics and flavours. Lots of people argue we serve our whites too cold, so I wasn’t terribly surprised when the bottle I’d chilled at home for an hour tasted markedly different than the one that had sat on ice for hours. (Full disclosure: both were delicious.) I encourage you to play around.
Lightly chilled, this wine had a lovely leesy/bready quality that made it kind of creamy. It might evoke the illusion of oak, but this wine sees zero oak treatment so I’m guessing it was aged on lees—spent yeast—which can have a similar softening yogurt-ifying effect. Ice cold, this leesy quality was lessened and the refreshing factor pumped up. It was crisp, it was cool, it was approachable. Everything you want in a white wine on a hot summer day.
Nose: Crisp green apple, minerality, lemon curd, and yeast (almost like a lemon square but not sweet).
Palate: The warmer bottle was all about yeast: creamy, lemony dessert deliciousness. Tart but soft and rich. Really tasty. The cooler bottle was still delicious but there was more of that green apple lemony tartness. It’s more like a frozen lemon sorbet than the baked square. The acidity and brightness really help this wine shine, and the fact that it’s got a bit of body and structure keep it interesting and satisfying. You could just easily serve this to your friend who refuses to drink anything other than Pinot Grigio as to your snobby pal who wants texture and finesse in their wines. It’s that good. Hello wine of the summer!